Saturday, July 9, 2016

A Great Adventure

"Into the Wild"
- Outside the Desert Retreat House -

The other day someone asked me if I was able to identify the “best” vacation I ever took in my life and I was able to come up with an answer almost immediately.

Over the years, my wife and I have travelled to many wonderful places and we have enjoyed many memorable vacations, but for me, one trip especially stands out as perhaps the “best vacation ever.” It was a great adventure into the unexplored Amazon rainforest of South America. 

Unlike most any other vacation of our lives, our Amazon adventure was more risky and far less controlled than any other trips we have ever taken. In order to get to our destination we had to fly on a rickety little, 12-passenger prop-plane that landed on a dirt strip in the middle of a jungle that was literally “days” away from any form of civilization. While we were there, our only means of transportation was on a hollowed-out “log canoe” that we took from time to time, making our way along the exotic Amazon River. We stayed in a grass-thatched hut and hiked through a “mystical” jungle paradise filled with danger and with beauty, surrounded by sights and sounds that we had never before seen or ever before heard in our lives.

As I think about it, that vacation was probably the “best ever” because it was such a bold exploration into an untamed, uncontrolled and exotic mystery. It also seems to me that a “great adventure” is probably an “icon” of what any spiritual journey is all about. 

Like many people, most of the time I walk on fairly safe, well-defined paths on my journey of faith, maybe that’s why the journey is often “less than memorable,” dull and sometimes lifeless?

In my reading yesterday I came across something priest and author, Richard Rohr, recently said about traveling the way of a “spiritual journey”

God is actually quite wild and dangerous,
but we have domesticated divine experience so much
that most religious people find themselves to be fearful conformists instead of
adventurous seekers of Love and Mystery.

I am really struck by the clarity and wisdom of this observation. Many religious (and spiritual; people) are indeed “fearful conformists.” God has been tamed, relegated to a controllable place where “he” can be easily accessed when needed. Many think of “God” as the man upstairs, someone living in a church or temple who can be visited from time to time. A religious/spiritual path is often clearly marked and well-defined by given rules and fairly precise rituals that demand little in the way of adventure or boldness.

Religious people often refer to and quote from from renowned biblical figures: the “great” prophets of Israel, the life and teachings of Jesus and Saint Francis of Assisi. Many people who identify themselves as being “spiritual” regularly rely on the wisdom of the Buddha. And yet, the truth is that all these great religious figures who are so exalted were never “fearful conformists.” They were all trailblazers, “adventurous seekers of Love and Mystery,”  bold and often rebellious agitators who resisted the popular culture of their own day.

Jesus was crucified for his seditious teaching, most of the fiery prophets of Israel were shunned and exiled because they stood so boldly against the status-quo, Saint Francis was considered to be something of a lunatic in his day and the Buddha was a laughingstock, mocked by those who held positions of high esteem in the culture of his time.

The spiritual path follows a “way” that often goes against the popular grain, it is an adventurous trailblazing journey and not a path of fearful conformity.  “God” is indeed wild and dangerous, totally untamed and unable to be controlled. "God"  is the energy of Love who invites us to walk into an exciting wilderness on uncharted paths, new every morning, new every moment.

As I think about my “best vacation ever,” it is clear to me that it was the “best ever” because it was such a "Great Adventure" and that’s exactly what I want my spiritual journey to be.

I am reminded of a few lines from one of my favorite poems:

Sometimes a wild god comes to your table.
When the wild god arrives at your door you will probably fear him.
You do not want to let him in.
You are very busy, or it is late, or it is early and besides…
You cannot look him straight in the eye
because he makes you want to cry.

O limitless space, O eternal mystery
Oh miracle of life
Oh the wondrous dance of it all.

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